US Colored Troops
African American Community
is Terrorized by White Mobs
following articles were published in Samuel Hazard's Register of
Pennsylvania, during August through October 1834.
Columbia (Lancaster county) Spy, gives the following account of riots
in that borough--
Saturday, Sunday and Monday evening last, the first outbreakings of
a riotous disposition were exhibited, and the windows of the houses
of several of the coloured people were broken, partly on account of
their own imprudence, and partly through the prevalent spirity of jealousy
and animosity which pervades the country respecting that class of the
Tuesday night, however, the disorder broke out more violently, the
passions of the persons who took part in the mob, and who generally
consisted of minors with some older but not more reflecting heads among
them, having been fired by a disturbance in the early part of the evening,
represented by some as an attack, by the blacks, ona white man going
to watch a lot on the outskirts of town, and by others as a defence
of their property when assailed by violence. A band of persons, consisting
in all of not more than fifty, then collected, and marched to that
part of the borough generally occupied by the coloured population,
attacked and injured a number of the houses with stones, disturbed
the quiet of the place by shouting, and fired off guns occasionally
though without any serious result.
mob dispersed early, and the citizens, on Wednesday, assembled in town
meeting, and made some additons to the police; and pledged themselves
to sustain the peace of the city.
Notes: The dates of the weekend disturbances were August 16, 17, and
(Saturday, Sunday, and Monday). The date of Tuesday's violent disorder
of was August 19, 1834. The African American neighborhood attacked
on Tuesday was Tow Hill, located in the northeastern portion of the
town. Many of the African American residents fled town for safety in
the hills east of town, and in a location identified by historian William
Frederic Worner as "Bethel's Woods."
white employers, upset that many of their African American workers had been forced
from town, sent notice to Lancaster County High Sheriff David "Dare Devil Dave" Miller for help.
Miller responded with deputies, who helped round up the trouble-makers, but at a subsequent trial, none were convicted.
Riot at Columbia
Pa. Sept 16, 1834.
Another exhibition of tha mad spirit of anarchy and violence which is spreading
over the country like a flood, prostrating the barriers which have hitherto
protected the lives and property of the citizens, and overthrowing the
laws and good order of the community, was made in this place on Tuesday
night last. At the dead hour of midnight--fit time for such deeds of darkness--a
band of riotous persons assembled and attacked a house in Front street,
occupied by a black man, the porch and part of the frame of which they
tore down, the inmates leaving the building at the first alarm. Thence
the mob proceeded to the office of another colored person, who deals in
lumber, broke open the window and doors, rifled the desk, and scattered
the papers along the pavement. After attempting to upset the building,
they marched off, having gained "glory enough for one night." Such proceedings
are disgraceful to the character of the town, subversive of the quiet and
safety of the inhabitants and insulting to the laws under which we live.
Thursday night last was one of bustle and alarm to all classes of our
citizens at one hour or another, such as we have not lately experienced;
the fury of disorderly men and the ravages of the destructive element
of fire, conspired to make it a season of confusion and terror. About
12 o'clock a mob which had collected began their operations by stoning,
forcing into, and destroying the interior, and furniture of several
houses inhabited by coloured persons. Four dwellings were more or less
broken and injured, the goods were scattered about and destroyed;
one of the inhabitants, a black man, was severely bruised, cut in the
face, and had one of his arms rendered powerless; and other violence
was done to the persons and property of the class of people to whom
riots continued about an hour, and amidst great noise and shouting,
and the sound of missiles coming in contact with the buildings, disturbed
the rest of the citizens adjacent to the scene of action. The exciting
cause of this exhibition of illegal tumult and devastation, was the
reported recent marriage of a black man to a white woman, which rekindled
the smouldering ashes of former popular madness, and afforded an opportunity
to evil-disposed individuals to re-act past occurences of disorder
and destruction. They however did not stop when they had punished the
object of their wrath, but spent the residue of it upon others who
had committed no fresh acts which called for punishment.--Spy.
Register of Pennsylvania 14, no. 9 (30 August
1834): 143; no. 11 (13 September 1834): 175; no. 15 (11 October
William Frederic. "The Columbia Race Riots." Journal
of the Lancaster County Historical Society 26 (1922): 175-187.